Although the US dollar is commonly accepted in Costa Rica, it is always best to know about Costa Rica currency for a more accurate pricing and savings during your vacations in paradise. The Colón, the currency unit and named after Christopher Columbus has a fluctuating value of 500 to 550 per 1 US dollar. This country might be a little more expensive in travel costs than the rest of Central America; however you will find it is entirely cheaper than travel expenses in Europe or the United States.
Under the Spanish influence the locals knew the currency of Costa Rica by the pesos and its denominations of ‘Escudo’ and ‘Real’ that were brought all the way from mother land Spain and in later years created in Peru. Then after the independence in 1821, the currency in Costa Rica was that of the Central America Federal Republic until 1838, year in which Costa Rica separated from this group and changed its coin once again.
Ten years later, in 1848 the Costa Rican republic was declared and its current coin symbols, shield and flag, were added. Nowadays the Costa Rica currency is made of golden and silver looking coins, and the variety of bills that come in different colors.
The denominations have different looks:
As mentioned before, US dollars are accepted in hotels, restaurants and most of souvenir shops. Nevertheless it is always good to be prepared to pay with the national currency, especially in small local establishments.
The grand diversity of lodging in Costa Rica makes it ideal for all types of travelers. Budget hotel rooms can cost up to US$20 a night, with private or shared bathrooms and some might even include breakfast. Local restaurants and small cafeterias have items listed on their menu for up to US$5. But still be prepared to pay in Costa Rica currency.
From there up there are plenty of places and prices to pay. Midrange hotels will probably take no less than US$30. Then there is the high-end and luxury hotels and their rate could start at US$100. These are often found in the most exclusive beaches and exotic destinations. Also if you are looking at having your meal in a nice restaurant be prepared to pay around US$30 or more.
Taxes are included in all products you purchase in Costa Rica have a 13% tax already included, that includes hotel rates, food and souvenirs. In the case of restaurant, they add a 10% gratuity fee to your bill and hotels an additional 3% of tourist surcharge, do not feel obligated to leave a tip above all these taxes, however it is pretty common since the 10% gratuity fee is shared among many people. Had a great service from your waiter and would like to tip? Leave the money on the table. Your hotel bellhops, maids and drivers can be tipped, although it is up to your opinion, these tips can range from US$1 to US$10.
With the Costa Rica currency denominations explained before it might be easier to go to any bank and exchange your foreign money. All banks will help you exchanging US dollars and almost all will exchange Euros or British pounds. Not all hotels accept traveler’s checks and these can be cashed at banks or exchange houses with a commission fee. There are also ATM machines all over the country; however your bank could charge a fee for using one of these abroad. Most credit cards are accepted almost anywhere and the same abroad fee of your bank could apply.